James Cunningham - Class of 2018
Hi James! We know that you played the bass guitar for the senior class band, Steel City, for a few years now. Tell us about how you guys decided to start up.
Steel City started with the idea of getting some classmates together to play a song at the Variety Show our D1 year. That never materialized, but we revisited the idea shortly thereafter when a couple of us were invited to play some songs at the ASDA Crawfish Boil. I don’t remember who was initially asked, but I was eventually asked to play bass with Alex, Nathan, and Mac. We had planned to only learn four to five songs for the event, but oddly enough we landed another gig during our first practice. While we were in the middle of the second or third song we had ever played together, an employee of a non-profit organization walked up to the garage and hired us to play for an upcoming fundraising event. All of a sudden we needed to add about twenty songs to our repertoire for this other event. That gave us the motivation to start playing and practicing more frequently, and by the time that event had passed we had more gigs lined up. We decided to make a go at having a band in dental school, and we’ve kept at it ever since.
What kind of events have you guys played?
Outside of playing at school functions, such as the Crawfish Boil and Miles for Smile, the majority of our events have been wedding receptions. We have also played at fundraising events for the UAB Alumni Association and non-profit organizations.
How long have you played the bass guitar? And have you ever played any other instruments?
I started playing guitar in high school when most of my friends started getting in to listening and playing music. I continue to play guitar today, but I picked up the bass guitar in about 2009 when my friends and I decided to start a band to play at bars and events around Tuscaloosa. We had three guitarists, but no bassist. I wasn’t as good at the guitar as the other two guys so I went out and bought a bass and fell in to that roll by default. I’ve been my main instrument ever since. I’m also working on playing the piano, but I’m far from being respectable at it right now.
Have you ever had private lessons?
I had a handful of private lessons for the guitar while I was in high school, but other than that I’ve learned everything else on my own.
What is your favorite song to play?
My favorite song to play with Steel City is “Bring it on Home to Me” by Sam Cooke. It’s a fun, relatively simple song to play on the bass, and it has an air of nostalgia for us as band mates. It’s one of the first songs we played together, and it continues to be one of the best songs we play together as a band. For some reason it always takes me on a trip down memory lane through our time together as a band, and reminds of just how much fun being in this band with my classmates has been.
What advice do you have for a dental student who wants to start a band while in school?
Start the band sometime around the end of D1 year or the beginning of D2 year with people in your class. Making room in your schedule for practice is tough, but it’ll be easier if everyone at least has the same school schedule. That particular time in dental school wasn’t as demanding for us, and it allowed us to make time to practice.